This four-door, four-seater Sportpace previews the estate version of Kia’s Optima sedan that will appear in the next 36 months and follows similar styling themes to Jaguar’s XF Sportbrake that is more about style than practical load-lugging capability.
Nevertheless it is still a handsome looking car designed under the guidance of Kia’s Chief Designer, Gregory Guillaume: “The normal wagon treatment would include a long third window to suggest and show the luggage carrying capacity. But by applying a strong D-pillar treatment and a much more swept back rear hatch, we have given the rear of the car a strong character—muscular and athletic. It has great power and strength within its mass.
“The visual weight of the rear is reduced with careful shaping of screen, door, and rear bumper. The edges cut into the mass to make its raked appearance believable and less wagon-like.”
Kia also debuted its all-new 1.0-L T-GDi (turbo gasoline direct injection) Kappa engine. Developed in-house at its Korean Namyang R&D center, the three-cylinder engine develops 118 hp (88 kW) and 126 lb·ft (171 N·m). “The key benefit over the 1.6-L engine,” explained head of powertrain, Michael Winkler, “is that the increased torque is produced at 1500 rpm, whereas the 1.6 only developed 98 lb·ft at the same engine speed.
“The key problem with a four-cylinder engine is that you get an exhaust pulse from a neighboring cylinder when the gas exchange occurs, delivering unwanted gas into the cylinder; with three cylinder engine’s firing order this is eliminated.”
As is becoming increasingly common with three-cylinder engines, the single-scroll turbocharger—here with a 38-mm (1.5-in) compressor and 34-mm (1.3 in) turbine—is paired with an electric wastegate to improve performance with a highly efficient air-scavenging strategy. As well as scavenging clean air for the engine to re-use for combustion, it is able to open the wastegate at the same time to improve waste airflow.
Direct injection from the intake side at 2900 psi (200 bar) features newly developed, by Kefico, laser drilled injectors with six nozzles in a pyramid pattern delivering an even spread of fuel and air throughout the cylinder while at higher engine loads, with double injections occurring.
The engine also features an integrated inlet manifold and a new dual-thermostat split-cooling system. This allows the engine block and cylinder heads to be cooled independently: the main thermostat controlling the flow of engine coolant to cylinder heads above 190°F (88°C) to reduce knocking, and an engine block thermostat shutting off coolant flow above 221°F (105°C) to reduce mechanical friction and improve efficiency.
Kia also revealed its in-house developed seven-speed, 221-lb·ft (300-N·m) capacity dry dual clutch transmission (DCT) replacing the six-speed automatic and improving economy by up to 7% depending on its application.
The first of its type to be developed in-house, it features a hollow double-gear input shaft that allows the system to quickly engage even gears, while a solid shaft that runs through the middle operates odd gears.
“Downsizing is just one approach to achieve future emissions levels, so I am sure we will have to introduce more technology in the future," said Winkler. "If we look at 95 grams, there is still a long way to go to reduce emissions so we will have to go down the electrification route.”